By Ryan Divish/Havre Daily News Sports Editoremail@example.com
To the average person watching, the sport of hill climbing looks like something created on a dare, or a bet. Many of the riders probably don't know who Sir Edmund Hillary is, but they've inadvertently adopted his mantra.
The only possible answer to why anyone would want to take a perfectly good dirt bike and try to drive it up a hill that looks closer to a cliff would be "because it's there."
That and the possibility of winning $15,000 might also offer a little motivation.
This weekend north-central Montana will get to see firsthand the insanity and intensity that is the sport of hill climbing with the very first Big Time Hill Climb presented by Halter Motorsports at the new Halter Motorsports ranch.
Big Time is the brainchild of the president of Halter Motorsports, John Halter, who has competed in a variety of motor sports and fell in love with the sport of hill climbing.
"When I was a kid, these hill climbs were a big thing," Halter, who grew up just outside of Big Sandy, said. "Then they went away because of issues like liability."
But in recent years, the sport has flourished, including in Billings, where the annual Great American Championship Hill Climb draws hundreds of competitors, thousands of spectators and offers up close to $35,000 in prize money.
"This sport is starting to hit mainstream," Halter said. "The event in Billings has gotten just huge. Since there are gaps in the hill climbing schedule, I thought that having something around here would be perfect."
The idea was good in theory at first, however one small problem stood between Halter and his fledgling event - a hill that was suitable for competition.
Luckily, Halter hooked up with Fort Benton real estate agent Scott Peters, who found the perfect piece of land 10 minutes east of Fort Benton, just past Loma off of Highway 87.
"He did a fabulous job," Halter said. "It wasn't easy, the first few people I talked to thought I was insane. I was asking for a piece of property that had 300-foot hills, was less than 10 miles from the highway and was easily accessible."
With his property secured, Halter went about securing the details to make the Big Time possible. It started with asking for sponsors. He went everywhere from Havre to Fort Benton and every place in between. And the response was positive.
"We have so many sponsors, it has been fantastic," Halter said. "People are really excited about this. There are tons of prizes and will be giving away things to fans in drawings. There has just been so much support from the communities."
Even though it is the first event and some problems always arise, Halter has spent countless hours getting it ready.
The event will feature local amateur riders and pro riders from 11 states and even Canada.
"We're hoping to get this event established and get as close to Billings as possible," Halter said. "We've had good response so far and it will only get better."
The $15,000 purse will be for the pro riders while amateurs riders will compete for trophies and other prizes.
Besides getting support from local businesses, fans will be supporting their local schools and businesses. There will be full concessions at the event that are run by local businesses while things like parking and program sales will be handled by the Big Sandy wrestling team and the Fort Benton football team.
"I am so excited about this," Halter said. "It should be a lot of fun for anyone including the entire family. For people who want to see something different and exciting, they should come."
The event gets under way at 10 a.m. both days with gates opening at 8 a.m. People are recommended to bring lawn chairs and dress appropriately. Outside coolers and pets are prohibited.
Advanced tickets are $10 and $15 the day of the event. For more information go to www.haltermotorsports.com.